It's been interesting the last few months. I'm not religious, but my family is. My family ever since I was little has attended Trinity Church UCC Chicago.
- Trinity UCC was founded in 1961. Ten years later, when the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright became its pastor, the church had 87 families. Today, Trinity UCC has more than 8,000 members, 70 ministries and three Sunday worship services.
I was born in 1965 thus, putting a big kabash on the whole "Everyone on the Redroom is under the age of 30" rumor.
When I was younger it was practice on Sundays: Watch my aunts and grandmother get ready for Church and see them head off. My mother was not religious so we never went.
Well maybe not counting those two weeks.
That first time when she had the bus money to let me go. I get there and was put into bible study. It was actually a lot of fun, as I found it fascinating what was being taught. I was a big science nut at this point and kept asking questions about how all of this history and information was part of science. There was not really an answer, so I just chalked everything I was learning as "Really cool stories to make people be nice to each other"
I also thought it was neat because there were people there my age who were pretty hip and nice.
After class I was asked if I would be interested in joining a club at the church. They asked if I could sing and if I would join the choir. I thought that was GREAT as I already had aspirations of performing. They told me to show up the next week early to rehearse.
The week leading up to all of this I was really excited. I was going to learn to *sing*. My mom was surprisingly weary of the whole thing. Not knowing why, I did what any kid would do to go somewhere: Cry. This worked really well and was given the bus money to go.
Upon arrival to the church, they tried to fit me in a child's robe. I was a huge girl and none of them fit. I asked for an adult size, of which they thought were too big. So instead of swimming in a robe, I was sausaged into one. It looked like I was bursting from the seams in this robe. And not bursting with the love of god. I was bursting from the deliciousness of Fig Newton's, pop rocks and Fun Dip.
Sheet music was not given to me. I think that they just thought that every kid should know these songs. I had no idea what was going on. In lieu of words, a tambourine was handed to me. That was easy to do for the Sausage Robe Kid. When we got onto the stage later I shook my tambourine and mouthed along to words I did not know. I started to get to know where the bridge and the chorus were pretty fast so I started to even sing along a little:
mmm...lala...GODDDD!...mmm.mmm...mmmlalalala (long silence mouthing) GODDDD!
It was a little embarrassing. I felt like the kids they put by the speakers at gatherings squeezed into my robe and given a tambourine, every once in a while spitting out the word GOD just a little too loud over everyone else.
I told this to my mom and she just shook her head. I was not given bus money to return back. Instead she bought me a flute (when drums she believed, were way too loud) and played that in my non secular public elementary school.
This was pretty much my extent of the Church. Outside of seeing my aunts and grandmom downstairs getting ready and listening to Tower of Power.
Now it all comes back and in such a strange and absurd way.
About this time last year I was attending my grandmother's funeral at Trinity. She had been ill for years, ravaged with Alzheimer's Disease. I returned to Chicago to say my goodbyes late November as all of us knew it was coming close to the end. She died three days after Christmas. The funeral was scheduled the beginning of January of last year.
It's amazing what you remember and what you forget when you walk into a church. I completely forgot how incredibly wonderful this congregation is. The idea of having a strong black community. To do on your own. To promote strong families within the community. To be responsible for yourself.
This was what my grandmother always promoted to me and her incredible array of grandchildren and great grandchildren. I was learning from the church through my grandmom. Quietly, with no mention of god.
They laid my grandmom out in a beautiful pink casket in this grand church. The ritual has always been unpleasant as I wish to be cremated and will never understand the whole viewing process.
I'm sorry. There is a DEAD BODY in the room. Has everyone forgotten there is a DEAD BODY here. Uh...It's hard to have a conversation right now. DEAD BODY ALERT!
And, there is no way of getting over what was in the casket. Yes, it was the remains of my grandmom. But she was so thin and ravaged? I looked in that coffin and went "Who in god's name is THAT" I stared for a while, holding up the passing line and tried to peg who she looked like. Then I realized who that was. It was Lena Horne! Someone had made my grandmom up to look like Lena Horne! It made the grieving process a little better for me throwing me into the grips of denial. This is not my grandmother. I'm at the funeral of Lena Horne!
During the breakfast before the 'Repass" (yes, they make you pass the body twice) I said to my uncle (whose sense of humor is as wicked as mine) If you guys go against my wishes of cremation will you do me the comedic favor of having the funeral parlor make me look like what Little Richard looks like now?
It's how I deal with pain. I had to laugh, and try to make others laugh.
What stood out though out of everything was the actual sermon itself. I guess my grandmother was a major influence on everyone at Trinity Chicago. She had been part of that church from its early inception and had nurtured, tutored and fed hundreds of people. Her home was always an open door. Filled with food and love.
And that sermon. It was speaking to my generation of African Americans. To continue to uphold and love and support your community. To be active and participate Even in the smallest ways: Tutor a child. Be a role model. Donate and support organizations. Create an outreach organization.
Yes. Got that covered. How inspirational. (look to the right) Oh no. There is a DEAD BODY IN THE ROOM!
It was uplifting. It was powerful. It made me forget for a good hour that I was in a room with a DEAD BODY. I turned to my uncle and said: "It almost makes you want to come back" he said "And, you are always welcome to"
If it just wasn't for that whole "I don't believe in god thing..."
Yes, I know Obama went to Trinity also. The man is four years older than I am. Members of my family know him and his family well. My family knows him well enough to know that he can lead. I'm still undecided on who I will be voting for: Edwards, or Obama (sorry Ms. Clinton. I just don't trust you. Love your husband. Don't really like you. No matter how much you attempt to cry. I'm not giving you the bus money to get into the White House)
This is not about defending Obama. This is about defending the church my grandmother went to for years that is now in the public spotlight because one man who is running for president is part of its congregation. It makes me just as angry as when people go after Romney.
Trinity is a black baptist church. Pure and simple. There is no voodoo witch chants. There is no secret pacts. There is not even insanely absurd theories. This church just asks its African American Congregation: Be strong. We have to do this ourselves. We have to help each other before we ask for help. We need to rebuild our community to make strong leaders and good people who are vital to the "Overall Community"
I did not go to the church to learn that. I learned that, from my grandmother.
I don't believe in god. I do though believe in good people.
The people who attend this particular church in Chicago are good people.
My grandom? A great person. That I would vote for if she was alive and running.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.